The Conundrum of Letting Go: or, the damage of holding on

The following is a bit off the cuff and was originally a Facebook response to something someone posted. Once I was through writing it, I thought, “gee, I’ve written a blog post.” Here it is, unedited (unless I find a typo) and straight from the heart:

I’ve been pondering this ever since I saw the post. So, I’m going to try a little tough love with a whole lot of compassion. I’m also going to say that from experience, I know how hard it is to let go. That being said, here’s a conceit, otherwise known as an extended metaphor…

Would you hold onto a hot ember? And if so, how long would you be willing to hold onto it? And what would you say to your children if they wanted to hold one in their hands? Chances are you are going to tell your children, “no,” and rightfully so. Holding onto an ember is going to burn the hand holding it. The longer it’s held, the more damage it does and the longer it takes the wound to heal. Now, you might be able to hold it until it dies out, but what will be left of your hand? Chances are it will be damaged beyond repair.

Holding onto something you shouldn’t is holding onto a piece of white-hot coal. It continues to hurt you, even if your ego thinks it’s protecting you from something worse. Not letting go doesn’t really hurt anyone but you. Granted, losing a hand means holding only one of your children’s hands instead of one in each, which might hurt them or make them sad. It’ll make picking up them more challenging, and some point, impossible (kids grow fast = get heavy fast). Your kids might even get angry or resentful that you held onto that ember because it reduced what you can do for them. And that’s going to cause more pain. See where this is going? Holding onto pain, anger, whatever, is cyclical. Mostly, it taints your life, but it does reverb out.

So, my question to you: why is it worth it to hold on when all you have to do is open your hand and let the coal drop from your hand back into the fireplace?

And yes, I know how hard it is. And yes, I’ve done it. Therapy, meditation, spirituality have helped. But really, all you have to do, as simple as this sounds, is forgive yourself. Don’t focus on forgiving the transgressor(s), because that person/people aren’t the real issue. Being angry with yourself for not protecting, letting it happen, whatever, that’s the ember. And if you can let go of the guilt, rage, helplessness, and all the rest, you can forgive yourself. Once you do that, forgiving others starts to become easy, or really, a non-issue. This is just one answer. There are probably many. But saying, “I don’t know how” is pretty much saying, “I don’t want to.” And once you are really ready to let go, you’ll know how and the coal will be ash.

I don’t know that this will help, especially if you don’t want to hear it, but I hope it does. Sending love and compassion to all of us that struggle with this issue.

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